Solomon Hykes, who as Docker founder and chief technical officer laid the groundwork for one of the most quickly adopted enterprise computing technologies ever developed, is leaving the company.
Hykes was the main force behind Docker’s container platform, which made an interesting but inscrutable part of the Linux operating system accessible to a huge swath of developers. Docker rode interest in containers to a massive amount of venture-capital funding, but it has struggled to turn that technology advantage into dollars nearly a year after veteran enterprise technology executive Steve Singh became Docker’s CEO.
“To take advantage of this opportunity, we need a CTO by Steve’s side with decades of experience shipping and supporting software for the largest corporations in the world. So I now have a new role: to help find that ideal CTO, provide the occasional bit of advice, and get out of the team’s way as they continue to build a juggernaut of a business,” Hykes wrote in a post on Docker’s blog that briefly crashed under the surge of traffic.
Containers allow software developers and operations administrators to create software that can run across multiple machines or multiple clouds by packaging it into lightweight, well, containers. It’s the next evolution of virtualization technology, and interest in containers has exploded because unlike virtual machines, containers can be launched and shut down very quickly and can move much more easily between different servers.
This growth also created the need for projects like Kubernetes, which manages and deploys large numbers of containers. Docker had hoped to capture part of this market with its Swarm container orchestration, but the cloud computing industry lined up behind Kubernetes in 2017.
Docker’s plan now is to sell large companies looking at making the transition to containerized development on Docker Enterprise Edition, a managed software product that builds on the open-source Docker project. It’s not at all clear how well that shift is going; Docker has been pretty quiet since Singh came aboard last year as it retooled its marketing and development strategies around this commercial product.
Hykes, who spent 10 years at Docker (originally known as dotCloud), is in a very interesting place as a 34-year-old major shareholder of the company, which, one way or another, should give him a substantial amount of capital to invest in his next entrepreneurial adventure.
In his own words:
It’s never easy for a founder to part ways with their life’s work. But I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have this problem. Most ideas never materialize. Most software goes unused. Most businesses fail in their first year. Yet here we are, one of the largest open-source communities ever assembled, collectively building software that will run on millions of computers around the world. To know that your work was meaningful, and that a vibrant community of people will continue building upon it…. can any founder ask for anything more?
Hykes will remain with Docker for an unspecified period of time as the company looks for a new CTO.
Several prominent members of the cloud-native world saluted Hykes for his accomplishments.
Microsoft’s Brendan Burns, one of the co-creators of Kubernetes:
Everyone in the Kubernetes community owes a debt of gratitude to Solomon.
Were it not for his vision, design sensibilities and inspiration everything that we are doing today simply would not exist.
All I can say is "thank you!"
And I'm looking forward to what you do next.
— brendandburns (@brendandburns) March 28, 2018
Pivotal’s Joshua McKenty:
Starting a company and shepherding an open source community are both insanely difficult; there's a reason very few people have ever tried to do both at the same time. Props to @solomonstre, and best wishes on what's next!
— Joshua McKenty (@jmckenty) March 28, 2018
(Editor’s note: This post was updated as more information became available.)